Fat March, ABC Television (2007)

With our current obesity epidemic, and our society seemingly obsessed with dieting, it’s a no brainer to come up with a reality show based on weight loss. NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” has been around for a few seasons, so now ABC takes their turn with Fat March, which is based on the British series, "Too Big To Walk."

In this “summer filler” reality show, the premise is quite simple. Take twelve obese individuals, and have them walk five hundred miles, from Boston to our nation’s capital across nine states. The reward for those that complete the journey is a split cash prize of 1.2 million dollars- that goes down a hundred G’s for each one that drops out. Therefore, they try to make this an incentive and team effort to keep everyone on board and walking towards the goal. The participants weights ranged from 241 to 515 pounds, and by my eye, they all would be considered morbidly obese (meaning a body mass index greater than 40), and hence considered candidates for bariatric surgery.

I was kind of intrigued by the concept, as the data on morbid obesity patients using diet and exercise to lose weight is rather poor- hence the need for surgical weight loss operations in this population. Perhaps a more intensive effort than the average patient can do at home would do the trick, although without long term lifestyle change, they’ll just regain the weight down the road anyway, the studies consistently suggest.

Anyway, the first day they walked five miles, the next day eight. They are coaxed along the way by two personal trainers who could star on "Baywatch" as they don’t have an extra ounce of fat on them. At this point, one contender already dropped out (she had only walked two blocks in the last two years), and another guy ended up in the hospital with dehydration. Then another ended up with blisters on his feet and required a break as well. They also had them camping in tents, and eating a high protein, complex carb diet.

After a week of walking, the weight loss varied. I recall the least being 4 pounds, while the most was a more impressive 19 pounds. Still, every pound that these folks take off, and keep off, is an achievement! Because this is a reality show, we had to have the obligatory challenge, and it involved gathering cranberries from a pond to win a night at the B&B instead of the tents. If we take out the challenge, we’d be down to a half hour show.

Overall, I think that striving for a healthier body and lifestyle is certainly a journey, but Fat March, despite its best effort, failed to capture that. Sure, we had the usual range of reality programming emotions, but in the end, watching folks walk for five hundred miles is just not compelling enough for a television show. It currently airs Monday nights at 9 PM.

Overall Grade: C


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